Cast iron Dutch Ovens are a favorite of outdoor cooks due to their durability and versatility. However, even the best-maintained cast iron can rust over time. In this blog post, we’ll look at why cast iron rusts, how to prevent rust, and the two best ways to restore a rusted cast iron Dutch oven.
Once you’ve removed the rust, follow our guide to choosing the best oils for seasoning and check out our seasoning quick guide!
What causes cast iron to rust?
Because cast iron is a porous material, it is prone to rust if not properly seasoned or maintained. When iron is exposed to oxygen and moisture, rust forms. This can occur if a cast iron Dutch oven is not thoroughly dried after washing or is stored in a damp environment. Acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or citrus, can also react with the iron, causing rust to form.
Keeping cast iron Dutch Ovens from rusting
It is critical to season and maintain your cast iron Dutch oven to prevent rust from forming. Here are a few pointers to remember:
- Season your Dutch oven: Season your cast iron Dutch oven with a light coat of oil before using it for the first time or after cleaning it. This will aid in the formation of a barrier that will protect the iron from moisture.
- Dry Thoroughly: After washing your Dutch oven, thoroughly dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. This is especially important if you intend to store it in a damp environment.
- Avoid Acidic Ingredients: Avoid cooking acidic ingredients in your cast iron Dutch oven, such as tomatoes or citrus, as they can react with the iron and cause rust.
- Keep in a dry place: To prevent rust from forming, keep your cast iron Dutch oven in a dry place. It should not be stored in damp areas, such as a damp garage or basement.
- Consider a storage bag: A number of companies make dry storage bags for cast iron cookware intended to keep your cast iron dry and safe when not in use.
Bringing a rusted cast iron Dutch oven back to life
Don’t give up if your cast iron Dutch oven has rusted!
There are a few options for restoring it. Here are the two most common approaches:
- Manual Scrubbing: Intensely scrubbing the rusty areas until down to the bare cast iron (the shiny grey metal and through any existing seasoning) with a stiff brush, such as a wire brush or steel wool, is the first step. To remove as much rust as possible, use a stiff brush and don’t be afraid of damaging the metal. Then, thoroughly clean, rinse and dry the Dutch oven with hot soapy water. YES, soap is save to used on your cast iron! Re-season the Dutch oven with a light coat of oil once it has dried.
- The Coca Cola Method: Rust can be broken down with things like oven cleaners and rust removers, however, Coca Cola is a great and less abrasive backup to get the job done. Coca Cola contains phosphoric acid, one of the main ingredients in commercial rust removers. You can soak rust covered spots in Coke overnight and scrub off with steel wool or foil.
For especially rusty cast iron, you can also remove rust via sandblasting or electrolysis. Sandblasting is a more intensive, but also more aggressive, method of removing rust from cast iron. Usually recommended for heavily rusted items, sandblasting entails blasting away rust and other debris with high-pressure air and abrasive materials. Rust removal using electrolysis removes rust from cast iron by using a mild electrical current. An electrical current is passed through the cast iron while it is suspended in a bath of water, causing the rust to dissolve. This method takes longer and requires more specialized equipment, but it is effective for removing heavy rust.
Whatever method you use, keep in mind that restoring a rusted cast iron Dutch oven can take time and effort. You can, however, restore your Dutch oven to its former glory with a little patience and persistence.
To summarize, rust on cast iron Dutch ovens is a common problem, but it is preventable and repairable. To prevent rust from forming, proper seasoning, maintenance, and storage are essential. If rust has already formed, you can restore your Dutch oven by scrubbing with a stiff brush or an assist with oven cleaner. For more significant rusting (and for those that have the required equipment), sandblasting and electrolysis will certainly work wonders but it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety.